The Knesset held the first meeting of the newly established “Lobby for Strengthening the Jewish People” on Monday. The caucus, comprised of 40 MKs from across the political spectrum, was established in concert with the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In a letter read at the meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Tzipi Livni wrote: “It is unusual for the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to jointly sign a letter to a parliamentary lobby. Our decision to do so relates to the importance of the goal of this lobby – strengthening the Jewish people and the connection between Israel and the Diaspora, developing the Jewish identity of the younger generation of Jews and deepening Jewish tradition.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky agreed, stating that a recent 40 percent uptick in French aliya was due to “the strong connection between French Jewry and the State of Israel,” built through such educational programs as MASA.

Sharansky expressed his hope that the newly established caucus would support increasing funding for programs “strengthening the Jewish world.”

MK Nachman Shai, who serves as co-chairman of the lobby, with MK Tzachi Hanegbi, stated that he was “fearful” that the bond between the State of Israel and world Jewry “could weaken.” As such, he asserted, Israel “must invest in future generations, in the young, and in those without a connection to Israel, and build with them, and through them, a new relationship based on mutual concern.”

Riffing former president John F. Kennedy, Hanegbi quipped, “Don’t ask what world Jewry can do for us. Ask what we can do for world Jewry: To help Jews maintain their Jewish identity; to strengthen their connection to Israel; to deepen their Jewish education; and to increase their desire to build a life here in the homeland of the Jewish people.”

The new lobby comes a month after Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein told Israeli Jewish Congress CEO Michel Gourary that he believed “we will have a caucus of that kind.”

Edelstein was responding to a request by Gourary and several European Jewish leaders that parliamentarians establish a Knesset caucus aimed at “reinforcing” relations between Israeli and Jewish communities abroad and “especially in Europe.”

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